Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Christie Hunter Arscott Is Helping To Change Our World

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“Choose courage over confidence”

You don’t need to be confident to make a bold move.. You just need to be courageous.

By refocusing our internal narratives on courage instead of confidence, we can take bold actions in the face of self-doubt and fear. You can’t learn to swim by standing on the shore and waiting to feel confident. You have to have the courage to get in the water, before you feel confident, and build your swimming skills.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christie Hunter Arscott.

Christie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning advisor, speaker, and author of the book Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career. Christie is a leading expert on how we can harness the power of intentional risk-taking to create more dynamic and vibrant careers and organizations.

A Rhodes Scholar, Christie has been named by Thinkers50 as one of the top management thinkers likely to shape the future of business. Christie was also selected for the biannual Thinkers50 Talent Award shortlist of the top global thought leaders in the field of talent management. Her research and writing have been featured across international publications including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, European Business Review, TIME, Fast Company, Business Insider, and more. Her article “Why So Many Thirty Something Women Are Leaving Your Company” was selected for the Harvard Business Review collection of the top articles on diversity.

A sought after speaker, Christie has spoken worldwide to organizations and institutions including the World Economic Forum, Harvard Business School, the University of Oxford, and the Global Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. Her corporate clients include Bacardi, Deloitte, PWC, HSBC and more.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born and raised in Bermuda — a 21-square-mile island in the Atlantic Ocean. In my book, Begin Boldly, I talk a lot about embracing uncertainty. What I don’t share in my book is that I think living by the ocean helped to teach me to embrace uncertainty at a young age. You can’t always predict when hurricanes or stormy weather patterns will approach or when you will need to pack up your home and move into a friend’s house. However, what you can do is prepare for that uncertainty. You can have the right mindset and tools to understand that uncertainty is inextricably linked to living by the sea and ensure that you can embrace that as part of your everyday life.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

When I was in my teens, a friend gifted me The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. The piece “On Reason and Passion” really resonated with me. Until then, I had felt that there was ongoing conflict and tension between my deeply passionate side (where I feel everything in life so profoundly) and my strong analytical side (the intensity of my analysis and thinking). Gibran’s book highlighted that reason and passion can coexist in a powerful way. After reading it, I no longer felt like these two core aspects of me were in conflict, and I realized that my reason and my passion could help me drive impact in the communities I am a part of.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Here is a story that I share in my book. The big mistake: Not using my voice.

“Woman Up!” My Microsoft Office messenger pinged as these words appeared in my chat on my computer screen. To my surprise, they were sent from a senior-level partner at my organization who was on the same team call as me. With my best interests at heart, this partner called me out for sitting quietly during the session with other consultants, not advocating for myself or the work I had done, not asking questions, and not using my voice. Instead of saying, “Man Up!” she rephrased it in the hope that I would “Woman Up!” and be bolder and braver in these discussions. To her dismay, I sat silently while others dominated the conversation and failed to attribute my contributions and ideas to me.

Not long before this call, at the age of twenty-five, I entered the world of consulting in corporate America, jumping into the Manhattan landscape of demanding clients, deadlines, and pressures. With a pervasive fear of failure and fear of the unknown, I clung to what I thought I could control and too often played it safe rather than smart. While grappling with self-doubt and feeling inexperienced, I favored the comfort of the known over the uncertainty of risk.

Fast-forward to where I am today: I’ve built a career based on taking risks and riding the waves through the ebbs and flows of a dynamic profession focused on empowering and equipping women to build bold, brilliant careers and lives. I’ve had successes and highs, speaking in front of thousands, winning international awards, being published, running a six-figure business, and, most importantly, making a meaningful and lasting impact on the individuals and organizations I work with. I’ve also endured notable lows, including rejections, contracts that didn’t materialize, proposals turned down, lost opportunities, and risks gone wrong. What has fueled my growth is the view that each risk I don’t take may be the opposing force against building a career and life I love. The question for me isn’t just, “What happens if I take a risk?” It’s also “What happens if I don’t?” I desired to learn how to swim, dive deep, and explore the endless possibilities of my career rather than cling to the safety of the shore. And I am glad I started to do this earlier rather than later, giving me more time to maximize my career journey. I’m so glad I took my mentor’s advice and “Woman’d Up!”

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I recently ran a global program for early-career women at a leading investment firm. At one point, I asked everyone to close their eyes and picture two individuals running a race with the same start line, start time, and finish line. I then asked the group whether this race was fair, and the majority responded with a resounding yes. When they opened their eyes, the audience saw an image on the screen of two races that looked very different. In the left lane was a man in a suit. His lane had two small hurdles in it. In the right lane was a woman with a ball and chain attached to one foot. Her lane had barbed wire, tall grass, terrain to conquer, a wall to climb over, and a swamp to swim through. The caption was, “Quit whining. It’s the same distance.”

The difference in lanes doesn’t mean the male professional doesn’t need to run fast, work hard, or overcome hurdles. It simply means that the race the woman is running is riddled with more obstacles, and she may be held back from the start. These obstacles are even more pronounced for women of color.

The harsh truth is that the world reacts to women differently than it reacts to men, and early career women need tools calibrated to work for them. My book is designed to be this custom tool.

My book is infused with the research-driven, real-world strategies that women need to run their best race — and take the risks that will help them win on their own terms.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

I can’t pick just one!

Here is one of the many stories that continues to resonate with my clients and me as we navigate the ups-and-downs, the peaks and valleys, and the successes and failures associated with building bold and brilliant careers and lives:

In 2016, I was invited to speak at the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Normandy, France. I shared the stage with a magnetic and energized social impact entrepreneur, Melody Hossaini, of the same age, thirty years old, and still in the earlier stages of her career. Melody was no stranger to risk. She was the Founder and CEO of the social enterprise InspirEngage International. She was best known as a contestant on the seventh season of the BBC television series The Apprentice, where she made it to week ten out of twelve. As we stood on the stage in front of a three thousand-person audience, virtual and in-person, she shared that sometimes you may need to go backward to propel yourself forward. Standing on the 360-degree stage, she explained that jumping from her current spot to the other side of the stage was difficult, particularly in heels and a dress, and asked how she could jump farther.

Then she backed up and, with a running start, made a longer leap. “If you want to go really far, go back first and then charge forward,” Melody said. “The challenges and failures we face in life are these steps back that allow us to go further than we would have if we just started from here — but only if you allow that to become a part of your journey.”

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

There wasn’t one moment. There was a myth. A myth I wanted to address: “It is only a matter of time.” In other words, more women at the bottom will eventually equal more at the top.

This common but incorrect assumption implies that if there are improvements in representation at entry levels, there will inevitably be comparable improvements at the most senior levels of organizations. It will just take time.

Unfortunately, what I realized was that our historical track record shows us that the ‘Pipeline Theory’ doesn’t hold weight in practice and would be better termed the ‘Pipeline Myth’. In the 1990s, women were well represented at entry level in many organizations across a wide range of industries and locations. Yet this trend did not result in comparable representation in the upper echelons of management. The state of progress was glacial at best.

Where is the disconnect?

My fifteen years of work and research in the gender space have shown that to date the majority of organizational efforts to advance women are focussed on female employees at the middle management, senior executive, and board levels, but this is too late. In reality, the talent pipeline in most organizations has many fissures where women leak out along their career journeys and this starts early. Focusing on more senior women is analogous to only plugging the final hole in a leaky pipeline that has many cracks before the end.

This was what catalyzed me to bring my message to the greater world.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I’ll share a message I received recently from a woman who is about to go on maternity leave:

“You really changed my perspective on life. You said to use courage in the absence of confidence. I’ve wanted to ask for a promotion for several years but never found the confidence. After your speech, I booked a meeting with my manager, and would you believe he agreed to the promotion? One simple act of using courage and it already has propelled me forward. I wanted to share because this is such a huge deal for me. And I repeat those words in my mind several times a week now. Thank you for sharing your research and expertise with the world!”

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

YES! When writing the book, I was cognizant that some may ask: Why don’t we focus on changing society rather than equipping women?

The answer: Yes, we want the world to transform. Yes, alongside my work with individuals, I advise organizations on changing policies, processes, and cultures that hold women back, on interrupting biases and making tweaks to systems so that we can level the playing field as much as possible and allow women to step into their most successful and meaningful careers.

But change isn’t happening fast enough.

In the absence of the progress that we want, women must prepare themselves to navigate the world as it is. Women can’t stand still waiting for norms to be revolutionized without taking their careers into their own hands. My book does not intend to absolve organizations, leaders, or society of the responsibility for challenging gender norms and the status quo. It is simply designed to help women navigate the world as it is right now — while we also hope that organizations are evolving in parallel, ideally with our input.

To that end, here are some things leaders can do:

  1. Include a focus on early career women in broader talent strategies and inclusion programs. Start early! Recent research shows that by concentrating on hiring, promoting and developing more junior women, we could get close to parity in managerial roles over the next ten years, ultimately altering the shape and makeup of the talent pipeline up to senior levels of organizations. The key takeaway is: We must invest in women before they reach management levels if we are going to move the needle on gender parity. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
  2. Offer targeted support at critical transition points. My work and research have highlighted that early career women need extra support through key career transitions — including when they leap from university to their first job, when they change roles, and when they return from parental leave. All of these transitions often occur within the first ten to fifteen years of one’s career, and companies should start early and pursue targeted interventions at these critical career and life junctions. For example, one of my clients has developed a coaching program targeted at the critical transition point of parenthood. They are offering a series of one-on-one career coaching sessions to anyone returning from parental leave. The sessions can start while the employee is on leave to help her prepare for reintegration and can continue as she ramps back into her role. Critical transition points require critical support.
  3. Equip the organization, not just the individual. While there is still an important place for efforts to support individual women, these must exist alongside broader strategic organizational efforts to address systemic barriers to gender parity. The most successful organizations address both the individual and the organization, ensuring that organizational cultural norms, policies, procedures, and day-to-day practices are evaluated and enhanced to create an environment where women can rise and thrive. For example, my work and research have shown that transparency in the promotion process, increasing the visibility of female and diverse leadership, men as gender champions, agile working, measuring progress on key people metrics, and implementing strategies to interrupt bias in the performance management process are a few organizational practices that can make the difference in accelerating the careers of women earlier on in the pipeline.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

For me successful leadership hinges upon:

  1. Understanding the needs of your stakeholders- I say “Ask, don’t assume”
  2. Elevating others — My Dad once told me that “Life is a team sport” and I couldn’t agree more. We must support the success of others to be successful ourselves. How can you allow others to tap into their best selves, do their best work, and build their best careers?
  3. Being Adaptable — Life is fluid, with constant challenges and opportunities large and small that you’re going to face both inside and outside the workplace. Whether it’s an unexpected restructuring of your organization, a critical team member leaving your company, a work-from-home order being issued due to COVID-19 exposure risk, a merger or acquisition, a loss of funding, a new strategic direction, a shift in leadership priorities, a promotion, a family emergency, or a job loss, change is unavoidable. It’s in global health crises and the economic and social implications they create for communities, organizations, families, and individuals. It’s in social justice movements that catalyze changes to how we live, work, and interact. The list is endless. Change is both inevitable and scary. Being an effective leader involves embracing change and having faith in your capability to figure things out, regardless of the outcome. You have to move forward with incomplete information in the face of uncertainty, and swap the comfort of control for the freedom to discover and explore the realm of possibilities while embracing change.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

Instead of 5, I have 1 thing that has changed my life and which I wish I knew sooner.

“Choose courage over confidence”

You don’t need to be confident to make a bold move.. You just need to be courageous.

By refocusing our internal narratives on courage instead of confidence, we can take bold actions in the face of self-doubt and fear. You can’t learn to swim by standing on the shore and waiting to feel confident. You have to have the courage to get in the water, before you feel confident, and build your swimming skills.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Brilliant careers are seldom built without bold moves”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

My top three dream dates — Oprah. Michelle Obama. Gloria Steinem.

The example these women have set has impacted my life and career in immeasurable ways. Although they’ve worked in different spheres, they all share a fierce devotion to social justice and equity. They are living examples of being bold, facing fears, and persevering. In addition, these trailblazers have used her platform to create permission for authenticity, vulnerability, and real raw human conversation and connection. One of my favorite quotes is: “You cannot be what you cannot see.” Research shows that ‘aspiration’ is directly related to ‘visibility.’ By their visibility, these women have helped me aspire for more and be bolder and braver in my career and life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am on Instagram at Christie.Hunter.Arscott

They can also check out my website at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Christie Hunter Arscott Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.